Sept. 04–Before speaking to several hundred Chattanoogans at Lindsay Street Hall on Thursday, presidential candidate Marco Rubio paid tribute to the five U.S. servicemen killed in the July 16 attack in Chattanooga at their Lee Highway memorial.
And during his speech that afternoon, the U.S. senator from Florida said if he’s president, anyone who attacks any military installation should expect to fail.
“We have to make sure that while (military service members) are at recruiting stations or all the way around the world, that they have the ability to defend themselves,” Rubio told the crowd.
Rubio, 44, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said America has fallen behind in defense spending. And that’s left the nation vulnerable to threats from North Korea, less able to mitigate destabilizing forces around Russia and the Middle East and unable to keep pace withChina’s military growth, he said.
If elected, Rubio told the crowd, he would end sequestration for the military and ensure the U.S. armed forces remained the biggest, best and most advanced in the world.
Big defense was only a piece of his message Thursday.
After being greeted by chants of “Marco, Marco, Marco,” Rubio said he was running to make sure the American Dream remains available to the next generation.
And if the country doesn’t reduce the $18 trillion national debt, shore up Social Security and Medicare and relieve regulation on business, Rubio said, his would be “the first generation in history to not leave their children better off than their parents left them.”
Although Chattanooga was his only stop in the state Thursday, Rubio says Tennesseans will be seeing more of him.
The Volunteer State is “going to play a key role” in the 2016 presidential primary, he said.
Rubio on Wednesday spoke in Oklahoma City about tapping the full extent of the nation’s energy resources; he reiterated that sentiment Thursday inChattanooga.
When asked how the Tennessee Valley Authority fit into his energy plan, he said he was not prepared to speak specifically, but added, “We want to utilize all of our energy resources to make utilities stable and predictable for generations to come.”
Former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, who is leading Rubio’s campaign in Tennessee, said the Florida senator has the best chance of taking the White Housethan any of the other 16 GOP candidates because he could bring together the so-called Millennial generation, Latinos and more mainstream conservatives.
Without that, Wamp said, Republicans “are not going to win again for the next 30 years,” Wamp said.
Rubio, a first-generation Cuban-American, is the third GOP candidate to visit Chattanooga. He visited Nashville in April for a National Rifle Associationevent.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in June for a fundraiser, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also Cuban-American, visited for a breakfast in August.
Dr. Ben Carson is planning a visit and book signing on Oct. 11.
Candidates Donald Trump and Santorum went to Nashville last month.
The Tennessean reported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will be in Nashville on Sept. 29. So far, no Democratic candidates have come toChattanooga, although former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley came to Nashville in August.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at email@example.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.
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